Category Archives: Damn Good!

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 yr Old

The Balvenie has been a distillery that I’ve… let’s not say avoided… It more like ignored.  Fair or not, you know what they say about first impressions and I was not a fan of the Carribean Cask as my introduction to the Balvenie and, well, I just haven’t had much urge to give ‘er another go… until recently. 

Lately, my whisky journey has been leading me toward drams that market themselves as throwbacks in some way. Call me old fashioned but I guess I kind of romanticize the idea of doing things from scratch or, at the very least, small-scale, hands-on craftsmanship. So, I’m in the bottle shop and I finally pull down a carton for the Balvenie and I read the words:

Hook, line and sinker… It was time to give them another chance! This whisky is bottled at 40% abv and cost me approximately $80 CDN. 


To the Eye

Lovely bourbony copper-orange with the odd flash of brighter brass. A tilt of my glass produces thick, stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My first sniff reveals loads of orchard fruits – ripe red apples and juicy pears. Then comes some red licorice, honey and some typical vanilla-caramel goodness. Eventually, with time, a firm, spicy oak backbone reveals itself along with a subtle note that reminds me of kosher pickle brine. Overall, I find the combination of aromas to create a soft yet sophisticated nosing experience. 

On the Tongue

I had been a little discouraged that this dram was only 40% but it’s one of those good 40% whiskies that delivers plenty of flavour!  Oak, buttered toast, filberts. It’s not nearly as sweet as the nose suggested, although there is a drop of honey in there. Vanilla, a hint of cinnamon, dark, stewed fruit… Perhaps a bit of marmalade. (Maybe it’s the time of year but I get a vague sense of Christmas pudding but not in a heavy or overly sweet way.) Man, I really like how that oakiness asserts itself early and serves to harness all of the other flavours, weaving them into a thread of pleasant toasty, nutty bitterness!

The finish is medium, with pepper and licoricy fennel seeds, followed by a return of the oak and some mineral notes, with honey bringing up the rear. This dram exits with a similarly pleasant bitterness that was found earlier on the palate and creates a nice, slightly dry finish that encourages another sip!

Final Thoughts

I’m sure glad I grabbed this bottle and got sucked into the romanticized farm-to-glass marketing – this is a quality drop! I find The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 yr Old whisky to be wonderfully balanced and I love how it seems to hint at sweet while playing a savoury riff throughout. This is a well-composed whisky that needs to be in your cabinet, if it’s not already – I think all whisky drinkers, newbies or experienced drammer’s will appreciate it!

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Glenfiddich IPA Experiment

In addition to whisk(e)y, I’m a sucker for beer… Especially the big, hoppy, flavourful types! So imagine my excitement when I noticed a couple bottles of the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, tucked away on the top shelf at one of my local liquor stores! While I have tried “hopped” Canadian whiskies before – which didn’t particularly impress me, mind you – I was curious to see what kind of riff a big-time scotch distillery might play on this idea. I was even more intrigued, seeing as the bottle presentation seemed to make it quite clear that this was not a low-end offering!

From what I can gather, the IPA Experiment is one of two whiskies in Glenfiddich’s recent experimental series, with the othe being dubbed Project XX. Since I haven’t yet stumbled upon the latter, I am forced to focus on just the IPA Experiment today.  Apparently, this is a collaboration between Speyside Craft Brewery and Glenfiddich, where a special recipe India Pale Ale was commissioned to season Glenfiddich whisky casks in such a way to impart specific, intentional effects upon the single malt over a 3 month finishing period. I read that the IPA recipe made good use of Challenger hops, which, as a former homebrewer, I know to be a particularly aromatic type of bittering hop, so I imagine that its floral, spicy character and sweet citrus flavours might be a good match for Glenfiddich’s fruity, Speyside profile. 

Enough rambling… This whisky is bottled at 43% abv and cost me about $115 CDN. 


To the Eye

Gorgeous bright gold … The appearance has me quite at ease that this whisky is free of artificial colourings but the bright clarity, not to mention the abv, leads me to believe that it is chill filtered.  A customary tilt of my glass reveals moderate but rather speedy legs. 

I think it’s also worth mentioning, here, that this brown beer-bottle version of the Glenfiddich  presentation, as well as the understated carton is really cool!

In the Nose

Lots of typical Speyside aromas jump out of my Glencairn. Juicy apples and fresh, grassy notes and some subtle, sweet caramel, vanilla and some underlying oakiness. After a few minutes, some additional characteristics start to stand out – ripe pears, marshmallows and, there it is… Hops! However, it’s not hop aromas like you experience while drinking an ale, it’s the fresh, floral and vegetal smell of fresh hops cones right off the vine. The experience is both unusual and captivating and I can’t shake the thought that it is all very similar to a nice Chardonnay. Brilliant!

On the Tongue

This is certainly a Glenfiddich, as the standard orchard fruits, vanilla and grassy, hay-like flavours stand out upon the palate. Oak is rather prominent but in no way overbearing and I feel like this NAS dram seems rather mature beyond its years… Freshly cracked peppercorns, menthol and grapefruit, pith and all. The medium finish is dry, with an espresso bitterness, eucalyptus and a faint vegetal note that could be hops but I might just be looking really hard for them!

Final Thoughts

The Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is one of those whiskies that I have a hard time assessing. It is a refreshing dram and I’ve been having a lot of fun sampling it, trying to tease out the impression that the ale-seasoned casks have imparted upon the spirit. I suppose that alone means the experiment has been a success. At the same time, I’m left wishing that the IPA influence was more obvious.  While this dram is discernibly different from other Glenfiddich offerings, I can’t really say that the IPA finish is the clear reason behind it. (Even though it probably is!)

Yeah, I’d love more hoppiness so that this dram could scream “IPA!!!” at me… but, while I love me some hoppy beer, that might not make for an enjoyable whisky. Maybe we’ll never know! All in all, this Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is a very drinkable whisky, it looks great when I pull it out to share with friends and it has offered me a new challenge, so I’ll likely try to score another bottle or two, if I can!

Wiser’s One Fifty Commemorative Series

As a proud Canadian, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle of Wiser’s One Fifty a few weeks ago, ahead of this past July 1st. Had I been better at this blogging hobby of mine, I might have had my review ready to publish on Canada Day… Ah well, better late than never, I suppose!

Wiser’s One Fifty is a special release, 17 year old whisky. (Although I’ve heard that there are some casks in this blend that are older that that.) To mark the 150th birthday of our nation, spirit was laid down in 2000 to form the base of this special commemorative release. A total of 7827 limited edition bottles were created, one for each week of Canada’s existence. My particular bottle is #7628, commemorating the week of Sept 2, 2013. From what I have read, this whisky is a blend of corn and rye whiskies. It is bottled at 43.4% abv and it cost me $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

In the bottle, I’m struck by the deeper reddish hue, which immediately connects me to the Canada Flag. Whether or not this was intentional, I can only hope it’s due to natural colours, imparted through casking. In the glass, however, my dram appears a rich, deep amber, with hints of bright copper, rather than red. A tilt of my Canadian Glencairn creates a crest that reluctantly releases thick stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My note from my initial tasting session was, “Clean and straightforward”, and I think this sums up the nose rather nicely. Aromas of caramel, toffee, vanilla and dusty rye spice provide a classic and delicious Canadian whisky nosing experience along with a distinct oaky note and subtle, punky corn, as well. 

On the Tongue

Silky mouthfeel, thanks to the corn distillate, I imagine. Dry, spicy rye flavours dominates the palate, however. This is not a dram that follows the current trend of premium Canadian whiskies that showcase the floral side of rye, which I believe comes from the use of malted rye. Instead, Wiser’s One Fifty chooses to highlight a more traditional profile. Cereal graininess and peppery, spicy rye! A subtle minty flavour adds interest, while a fruity, almost berry-like note on the exit further wakes up my tastebuds. The finish is quite dry, medium in length, with caramel and loads of oak, along with pink peppercorns and bitter citrus pith. The finish reminds me somewhat of cough syrup, which is not nearly as bad as it may sound!

Final Thoughts

I love floral, malted-rye character in my Canadian whiskies but Wiser’s One Fifty reminds me how much I also enjoy the dusty, spicy, clean profile of a traditional rye grain whisky. This is a well-composed, well-made Canadian whisky. Smooth and easy drinking, yet surprisingly complex and mature, this is a terrific dram! If you happen to see a bottle kicking around, don’t let it slip away!

Woodford Reserve

Another bourbon followed me home… 

My growing fondness for the American spirit (and my annoyance at the ever-increasing price of scotch) has me going for bourbon as often as anything, lately. This time, it’s a dram I haven’t tried before: Woodford Reserve “Distiller’s Select” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I’ve been intrigued by this whiskey the last couple times I’ve visited the bottle shop, admittedly at least partly because of the unique oversized flask style bottle. The label tells me that I have chosen bottle #3309 from batch 0238. Since Woodford Reserve is a readily accessible blend, I have no clue if these numbers are at all meaningful to the actual product inside the bottle. This whiskey is bottled at 45.2% abv and cost me about $50 CDN. 

To the Eye

Look at that deep mahogany, with flashes of coppery orange… Is there a more appealing looking dram than a bourbon? The requisite twist of my glass produces quick, skinny rivulets. 

In the Nose

The typical bourbon aromas are all there and the alcohol greets my nostrils sharply, but not harshly. Vanilla, citrus and brown sugar are front and centre but I’m left wondering if custard is a reasonable description.  There is an interesting, delicious floral quality about this whisky that has me suspecting that malted rye might be in the mash bill. A bit of milk chocolate, oak wood and pepper round out the nosing experience.

On the Tongue

Smooth, yet a nice firm bite! I’m finding that this bite is one of the things I hope for in my first sip of bourbon. (Does that mean I’m officially a bourbon drinker?) A slightly oily mouthfeel makes for a creamy sensation that is full of oak, corn flakes, vanilla, and baked apples. There is plenty of sweetness, but I find it nicely balanced by a charred, toasty quality. That malted-rye floral character makes a reappearance, which I really enjoy. 

The finish is medium, with a rich, creamy quality. More oak, graphite and burnt sugar. The chocolate also returns. 

Final Thoughts

Woodford Reserve is a delicious, fruity bourbon that is well-composed and nicely balanced. I have tasted better bourbons but I find this one to be very interesting and appealing to my Canadian, rye-trained palate. (I have no idea if I’m correct about the rye-malt, but that is what I smell and taste when I drink this whiskey.) I have a feeling that this bourbon will be a  frequent resident of my liquor cabinet!

Auchentoshan 2000 Single Cask #1757 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

So, I was just up to the city for yet another of my son’s spring hockey games and, on the way home, we happened to stop for a bite right beside a big new bottle shop… What a coincidence! Well, with yet another graduate course recently put in the rear view, I figured I deserved to whip in and see if there were any treasures to be uncovered. I’m not sure if it’s a treasure or not, but I did find an independent bottling of Auchentoshan, a distillery I quite enjoy. This whisky was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd, from Auchentoshan cask #1757, which was laid down in the year 2000, making it a 13 yr old expression. There was no carton for this bottle but the rear label explains that this bottling was produced exclusively for the North American market. This whisky is 53.6% abv and costs about $95 CDN. 

To the Eye

Pale, straw-gold in colour. A twist of my Glencairn builds a crest that reluctantly releases fat, exceedingly stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

Apples, which are always front and centre for me, when nosing an Auchentoshan. But, on this dram, these apples seem decidedly more crisp and tart, more like a green Granny Smith than the usual sweet, ripe reds I tend to pick up from this distillery. Werther’s Original caramels, vanilla and cotton candy are also quite assertive. With time, more subtle aromas also join the party: malt, leather and a dry grassy note. 

On the Tongue

Whoa! This whisky is much richer and more potent than the typical core expressions from Auchentoshan – I guess an extra 13-14% abv will help with that! The mouthfeel is much thicker and creamier, as well. Flavours of juicy fruits, particularly stone fruit preserves jump out at me, along with Cuban honey (if you’ve had it, you understand the difference), sweet malted grain and real black licorice flavour. There is herbal, citrusy note that arrives toward the end… not exactly understated but a bit more like a lime-basil than like the actual citrus fruit. Either way, the tang is a welcome counterpoint to the sweet flavours at the onset. There is a satisfying alcohol burn in this dram, which creates a tingling, effervescent finish of medium length, full with pineapple, more licorice and a hint of barrel wood… this may sound unusual, but the finish is a little reminiscent of drinking a nice Chardonnay. 

Final Thoughts

I’m impressed! I’ve long appreciated Auchentoshan whiskies and this is a very good one. I have not gotten in to many independent bottlings but this single cask offering by Berry Bros. & Rudd has me thinking I’ve ignored this category of whisky for long enough. It’s rich, sophisticated and well-composed! Complex, yet smooth, but still providing a nice burn. Delicious and highly recommended – if this was a more readily available dram, I would consider labelling it as a new favourite!

Baker’s Bourbon

My exploration of bourbon continues…

A gradual, but pleasant, by-product of my love for whisk(e)y is that a lot of my friends and family members have become interested in more premium spirits. Growing up, I can recall my Dad pouring the occasional Alberta Springs and cola and I remember fighting with my brother for the “throwing star” off of his bottles of Seagram’s Five Star…

But I digress. The point is that, today, my old man is a likely to pull out as bottle of Ninety 20 Yr Old or Glenlivet 15 and pour out a couple healthy drams straight up as he is to suggest a beer. Hell, even my Mom will enjoy a drop of the good stuff these days! I also take credit for several buddies who now fancy themselves as whisky aficionados, which is good since, as they I have been known to say, more drinking buddies means more drams! My brother-in-law is another recent whisky convert and, when he was putting me up for a few nights while I attended my teacher’s convention in the big city, it seemed only right to bring a bottle along. I chose Baker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which is bottled at 53.5% abv and cost me about $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

I’ve said it before but the appearance of a good bourbon is very appealing to me. Baker’s is a deep amber gold with flashes or coppery-orange… It looks good enough to drink!

In the Nose

Classic bourbon aromas jump out of the glass: caramel, vanilla, oak and sweet corn. I expected more of an alcoholic astringency, based on the higher proof but there is actually very little. A bit of time reveals a sharp citrus tang and a woody note that is different from the initial oakiness but I can’t decide if it’s more like pine or cedar. Regardless, it smells good! I think there are also some canned plums, cloves and cinnamon lurking in the background. I also get a touch of yeasty funk, which is pretty typical for Beam products. 

On the Tongue

A nice grainy, kettle-corn sweetness is well balanced by oak tannins and pink peppercorns. There is a definite rye spiciness about this bourbon. The cinnamon I noticed on the nose is much more assertive on the palate, along with some surprising fruitiness – dark ripe cherries, perhaps. Vanilla and toffee round out the flavours and ensure a true bourbon experience. This whiskey has a satisfying burn that carries the medium-long finish of oak, walnuts and vanilla. 

Final Thoughts

Baker’s 7 Yr Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon seems to be yet another excellent bourbon! It offers pretty much everything that I am attracted to in America’s major contribution to the whisk(e)y scene. A lingering thought is just how damned drinkable this whiskey is! It is exceedingly smooth and approachable, despite the higher alcohol content. I am left kind of wondering, however, where this dram fits in the Beam lineup. Knob Creek offers similar characteristics at a slightly lower proof, older age statement and a lower price point. Booker’s, on the other hand, costs more but packs a much higher proof and intense flavours. 

In the end, I have decided that Baker’s is a very fine whiskey in it’s own right and one I am likely to buy again. 

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

You know, the more I drink bourbon, the more I like bourbon…

How’s that for a philosophical opening statement?  It’s funny though, because I can remember a time, not so long ago, when I thought bourbon was really inferior stuff. No longer, however! I now find myself perusing the American whiskey aisles in my local bottle shops as often as I visit the scotch sections. And, while it’s kind of a chicken-egg thing, I have realized that I prefer bourbon-barrelled scotch whiskies over other finishing regimes. The thing I am enjoying the most about my growing infatuation with bourbon, though, is that it has opened an entire new category of taste experiences for me to enjoy. 

This brings me to my most recent purchase: a bottle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This dram is aged for 9 years before being bottled at 100 proof (50% abv). This whiskey cost me $50 CDN. 


To the Eye

I’ve said it before, I love the colour of a proper bourbon! Deep amber, almost coppery-orange with flashes of brighter gold. Very appealing… A swirl of my Glencairn reveals a crest that eventually releases extreeeeeeemely stubborn, thick legs!

In the Nose

Brown sugar, burnt sugars and cinnamon are the first aromas to greet me. What really strikes me is an absence of alcohol burn. Some rye spiciness, more distinct cinnamon and some oak soon join the party.  Time in the glass eventually allows a ginger-bread quality to develop, along with a pine note and maybe a touch of marshmallow. 

On the Tongue

Nicely balanced. Caramel popcorn and oak form the backbone of this dram but there is also a fruitiness about it… apricot jam continually comes to mind. The are more subtle qualities woven amongst the more dominant flavours too: that rye spice is lurking in the background, along with a charred flavour that is not quite smoky, but more like something off the grill – barbequed corn-on-the-cob?  It’s not as sweet as I fear I’m making it sound. A little bit of cocoa powder and some vanilla are also evident. 

The finish is long. Actually, what’s longer than long? Seriously, the flavours linger on and on, several minutes after each sip. Oak for sure, but those sweet, ripe apricots return as well and almost gain strength before fading to something cherry-like (more like cherry wood than the actual fruit) and a smack of hazelnut at the end.

Final Thoughts

Delicious stuff! I still don’t know if I know enough about bourbon to make a statement like this, but Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon just seems to be an honest, well-crafted whiskey. It tastes like good bourbon! I have had whiskies that knocked my socks off more than this dram… Yet, those apricots! But for my money, this bottle is a very good value. I’m sure it won’t be a one-off in my cabinet!